Assassins Reviews – Chichester Festival Theatre

Reviews are coming in for Sondheim musical Assassins at Chichester Festival Theatre.

Polly Findlay directs this brand new, completely reimagined production, which is playing at the Chichester Festival Theatre until 24 June 2023.

Assassins has music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by John Weidman, and this production’s creative team includes designer Lizzie Clachan, choreographer Neil Bettles, musical supervisor Richard John, musical director Jo Cichonska, orchestrator Michael Starobin, lighting designer Richard Howell, sound designer Gregory Clarke, video designer Akhila Krishnan, fight director Kate Waters, and casting directors Charlotte Sutton CDG and Christopher Worrall.

The big cast includes Danny Mac (Pretty Woman, Sunset Boulevard) as Booth, alongside Amy Booth-Steel (Tammy Faye) as Moore, Luke Brady (The Prince of Egypt) as Zangara, Lizzy Connolly (Sweet Charity) as Balladeer 2, Ivan De Freitas (& Juliet) as Bystander 2, Carly Mercedes Dyer (Anything Goes) as Fromme, Peter Forbes (Follies) as The Proprietor, Bob Harms (Pretty Woman) as Bystander 1, Harry Hepple (Hamilton) as Guiteau, Nick Holder (The Threepenny Opera) as Byck, Charlotte Jaconelli (Heathers) as Goldman, Kody Mortimer (Hex) as Bystander 4, Sam Oladeinde (Come From Away) as Czolgosz, Jack Shalloo (Girl From The North Country) as Hinckley, Liam Tamne (Bonnie and Clyde) as Balladeer 1, and Samuel Thomas (The Normal Heart) as Oswald/Balladeer 3. Jaimie Pruden (Beauty and the Beast) and Daniel Bowskill (Let’s Face The Music) are Onstage Swings.

Read reviews from The Times, Guardian, Stage and more, with further reviews to be announced.

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Assassins reviews

The Telegraph

"Sondheim’s broadside on the American Dream brought bang up to date"

"Nine of the successful and would-be killers of US presidents are assembled in this time-warping satire, expertly and immersively revived"

"... Polly Findlay’s assured and propulsive revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins."

"Sondheim is not the easiest of sells, but this production packs so much clear-eyed gusto, courtesy of a uniformly excellent cast, into its tight, no-interval 110 minutes. Much of its immersiveness comes from its visual cues. Ingeniously, designer Lizzie Clachan swaps out Sondheim’s original fairground for the environment of a political convention."

"Weidman’s book is a little disjointed but it still manages to stuff it full of acerbic humour, rage, compassion and the stuff of bated breaths while someone puts their own head into a noose. If this is your first bite of Sondheim, as it was mine, it’s a brilliantly provocative piece to chew on."

Dzifa Benson, The Telegraph
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i News

"A triumphant reframing of Stephen Sondheim’s musical"

"Polly Findlay’s timely production draws parallels with right wing politics in today’s America"

"The triumph of Polly Findlay’s ultra-stylish production, magnificently staged in the sweeping Festival Theatre in Chichester, is to foreground the unsettling links between these troubled historical souls and the razzmatazz, gun-happy culture of today’s American right."

"For Sondheim lovers, this show will be a prize addition to the trophy cabinet. For general fans of musical theatre, do go – but go prepared."

Fiona Mountford, i News
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The Guardian

"Sondheim’s dark study of aspiring presidential killers"

"Polly Findlay’s production underlines the way these left-behinds and psychopaths invert the American dream"

"The surreal carnival of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s 1990 musical is replaced by the modern circus of politics and rolling news. The Proprietor is a presidential figure, the Balladeers news anchors."

"This is a thoroughly accomplished reconceptualisation by director Polly Findlay, with an inspired set design by Lizzie Clachan. It underlines the way in which these oddballs, left-behinds and psychopaths invert the American dream, turning their failures into righteous fury, and getting their 15 minutes of fame through infamy."

"While there is much in the production that dazzles, the musical in itself does not shock, enlighten or provoke as much as it seeks to in its narrative around the American dream and those it leaves behind."

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
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The Times

"Lavish Sondheim revival labours political points"

"In terms of pure visuals, Polly Findlay’s ambitious revival deserves four stars at the very least."

"There are two problems, though. One is that Findlay’s political subtext is less than subtle. Turning the Proprietor into a facsimile of Donald Trump (impeccably impersonated by Peter Forbes) and adding a climactic scene evoking the chaos of the January 6 invasion of Capitol Hill hammers home the message just a little too firmly."

"The other, larger flaw lies in the material. This is a show in which the central conceit — sketching portraits of the men and women who have killed or tried to kill the occupant of the White House — is more alluring than most of the songs."

"Hardcore Sondheim admirers will want to see this production anyway: a show that is usually mounted on a modest chamber scale gets the full treatment. And there are fine performances too. Danny Mac, who we’re used to seeing in lighter fare, is compelling as Booth..."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Stage


"Electrifying revival of Sondheim’s revue about presidential killers is darkly entertaining and deeply scary"

"Now, this is killer. Stephen Sondheim’s macabre vaudevillian line-up of nine men and women who attempted to murder US presidents – four of them successfully – scintillates in this thrilling revival by Polly Findlay. Post-Trump, the 1990 musical, with a nimble, grotesquely witty book by John Weidman, has a newly explosive, antic energy."

"Vast video screens flank curtains that part to reveal a replica of the Oval Office, where these murderous malcontents mingle like vengeful ghosts, and Findlay splits the narrating role of Balladeer between three glossy, stiffly coiffed newscasters. It is an inspired and dynamic choice..."

"It is stunning musical theatre: a show that elides political and showbiz razzmatazz and subverts it, setting its sights not just on the Union’s past, but on its urgent present. Go: I guarantee it will blow you away."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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📷 Main photo: Assassins - Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo by Johan Persson

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